Expanded Dead (3.5e Monster)
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Evil is an undiscriminating force that can grip the hearts of any creature. Not just humans and humanoids stand to be endangered by its influence. Wherever such an evil force prevails, all suffer in its wake. The curse of the living dead is no difference. That said, it's not particularly realistic for a dog or a bird to rise as a humanoid Dead, nor does every Dead spawned from a human body bear the same set of characteristics. Sometimes, the form of the newly risen Dead mirrors some of the base creature's traits or its behaviour in life.
This article intends to expand on the varying types of Dead, categorizing each of them into one of five basic tiers of power and introducing yet more new strands of Dead to further hound the beleaguered survivors of any zombie apocalypse. A further documentation of the process of Dead infestation may also be given at a later date.
Like with the original article found here, the Expanded Dead are most geared to low-to-mid level games with a survival or horror theme (Epic 8 or Epic 10 for example), though they can be loosely fitted in pretty much any type of setting. Certain classes or ability sets may be more capable at countering them than others, and as such some balancing may be needed. Notes on this will follow.
Corpses sustained in unlife by the blackest of magic, Dead have wandered the realms for ages untold, and were thought to be a form of divine punishment for the hubris of Man, though many scholars believe that the first Dead had been created by an unrecorded group of ancient necromancers to bolster their armies. There was, after all, nothing quite like dread corpses that would slay the living and multiply themselves almost without limit. Although the emergence of the Dead was eventually halted by a great crusade that spanned the realm and their numbers had been all but eradicated, the curse of the living dead is nothing if not tenacious, and within the deepest and darkest cracks of the world it still persists.
Outbreaks of Dead usually occur in intervals across time, where sudden expansions of Dead numbers is eventually met with a joint venture to stamp them out. After several centuries go by and the Dead once again pass out of general memory, they often make their unexpected return as if guided by a clockwork instinct. It is thought by some that the Dead are guided by necromancers of immense power right to this day, owing to their uncanny ability to resurface when the world seems to be least prepared for it, and it is also theorized that the Dead themselves awaken during times of great conflict. During the High Tide of Dead, it is not uncommon to find decade-old battlegrounds infested with Dead, and burial places will come to fester with their great number.
While Dead are both physically and mentally diverse, all of them have the following traits and abilities in common. In addition to these, all Dead have the usual undead traits, as well as a varying amount of damage reduction/slashing, often in conjunction with other types of damage reduction. A Dead whose head is severed or destroyed will cease to function, though some rare high level Dead may recover from a lost head.
Aim for the Head (Ex): An attacking creature may target the head of a Dead by taking a called shot to the head at a -4 penalty to the attack roll. If the attack is successful, the damage bypasses any damage reduction/slashing it has.
The Dead are divided in three main categories, each with their own subcategories. The division is based on general power level per individual Dead.
The lesser Dead are the shamblers, the swarmers and the fodder amongst the Dead. They are typically slow, always mindless, and have little to no instinct to speak of beyond chasing after everything within the range of their limited perception at (at best) brisk walking pace. However, their great strength lies in their overwhelming number. An infested city may play host to thousands of lesser dead, and with so many of them swarming the streets people are bound to be swept up by them. Despite their generally slow movement speed and very lackluster defenses however, the lesser Dead are actually the main disseminators of the Curse. As a person infected by a lesser Dead's curse will generally be able to travel a fairly substantial distance before falling ill and dying, an unwitting survivor can easily spread the Curse to neighboring cities, and even across the borders of Kingdoms. Lesser dead are themselves divided into the minor lesser dead and the major lesser dead.
Minor (Tier 1)
Easily three quarters of Dead are comprised of minor lesser Dead. The curse runs so thinly through their lifeless veins that their bodies usually lack all but the most rudimentary forms of movement ability. Minor lesser Dead have 1 Hit Die and a challenge rating of less than 1. A minor lesser dead is the kind of zombie that, by itself, a commoner can easily defeat by throwing mouldy potatoes at it until it falls over. These Dead are often misshapen, broken and battered, and falling apart at the seams. They may miss parts of their anatomy that would be considered vital if they were still alive, and move around with a combination of uncoordinated shuffling, staggering, hopping and crawling. For example, birds that become minor lesser dead will lose all of their flying ability; they simply do not have the motor functions to do anything other than peck away - and often uselessly - at adventurer shins. They are fairly easily dispatched even in numbers by any well-coordinated party, though their relentless advance will eventually drain the resources of even the most stalwart heroes.
Diluted Curse: The faint presence of the Curse within a minor lesser Dead may save their targets from an ill fate; curse-carrying attacks made by a minor lesser dead only have a 50% chance to transmit the curse to the target.
Single Actions Only: Like a headless chicken can only either run around in circles or bump into stuff, a minor lesser dead can make only a single move-equivalent or standard action per turn, regardless of its form and otherwise alacrity. A minor lesser dead can move up to its speed and attack in the same round, but only if it attempts a charge.
Known minor lesser Dead
- Walking Dead: Your basic shambling zombie.
Major (Tier 2)
While still mindless and uncoordinated, the major lesser Dead are strong enough to be actually individually threatening to early-level characters and NPCs, and have more fleshed out instincts that allow them to attack more effectively. Armed with the limited ability to detect the life force of nearby living creatures, these undead horrors will give haphazard chase to any living creature entering their range of perception, though they may still be occasionally stumped by any solid obstacles between themselves and their targets. Major lesser Dead are almost always physically complete or at least function at that level, and their increased physical strength and ability to run short spurts makes them a lot more challenging. Their general challenge rating ranges from 1 to 3, and these are the first tier of Dead that may show individual characteristics beyond basic species. Many major lesser Dead have very slight amounts of damage reduction/silver.
Known major lesser Dead
- Restless Dead: A fast, deadlier zombie.
These Dead are the ones that move with purpose, and stalk the night with a dark cunning. The greater Dead retain some semblance of intellect that is animalistic in quality. As a result, they can actually distinguish targets, and are capable of coordinated movements with other greater Dead. The greater Dead are all deadly, without exception, and even one encountered alone will present a considerable threat to any rag-tag group of would-be zombie apocalypse survivors. To make matters worse, some of these Dead travel in packs that systematically hunt down living stragglers. Greater Dead are fast, agile and resilient, often having some special defenses or immunities. All greater Dead possess damage reduction/good and silver, and their natural and wielded weapons are always treated as evil-aligned for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction. Greater Dead also possess lifesight, but out to 60 feet.
Command Lesser Dead (Su): A greater Dead is capable of bending lesser Dead within a 60-foot-radius to its will and coordinate their movements. As a swift action, a greater Dead may focus its attention upon a lesser Dead in range, putting them under their control until dismissed. A greater Dead can directly control 2 Hit Dice of lesser Dead for every Hit Die it has. Once a greater Dead has established control over a lesser Dead, it is permanent until the greater Dead releases command over its thrall or until it wanders out of the range of its control, which is 100 feet per Hit Die of the greater Dead.
Greater Dead can use their thralls to flank, surround, attack or intercept particular targets, or order them to follow, guard, or move to a particular position. Commands are given through a rudimentary form of telepathy that uses the curse they share as a relay, and require a free action.
Minor (Tier 3)
The minor greater Dead possess a mental capacity roughly equivalent to that of a savage beast. They did not retain enough of their mental acuity to make choices based on rational thought and move with a dark purpose granted them by the remaining vestiges of instinct left within their rotted brains. What they lack in mental prowess, they make up for in spades in terms of sheer ferocity and tenacity in battle. Instinct is everything to these kinds of Dead. Creatures that held a reasonable measure of power or ability in life often return as a minor greater Dead, where the practiced motions of combat or the principles of magic have been deeply ingrained within their subconscious, and will continue to steer their actions in undeath. The bulk of minor greater Dead is made up by dangerous animals and magical beasts that succumbed to the curse of the Living Dead, though their numbers contain many humanoids as well.
Most minor greater Dead apply stealth and hit and run tactics in their fighting style, to best use their beastly and oftentimes swift forms to their utmost advantage.
Known minor greater Dead
Major (Tier 4)
The ranks of the major greater Dead are made up almost solely of creatures of great power and ability. An accomplished knight that succumbs to the curse may rise as a major greater Dead, as may a beast of considerable power and cunning, like the alpha of a dangerous pack. Humanoids that attain this level of Dead upon rising still experience significant cognitive deterioration, but even the most rudimentary mind amongst their ranks can boast some manner of sentience. Some may be capable of complex problem solving. Major greater Dead usually have unique and dangerous abilities, depending on their shape and type, and are the most likely to incur one or more malformations upon rising as Dead.
Regardless of their origins, all major greater Dead are immensely dangerous, and even one of them is able to provide a decent level of challenge to the most accomplished parties existing in an E8 game.
Corruption Aura (Su): All major greater Dead are so infused with the curse of the living dead that merely being close to one can afflict you. They exude an aura of black smoke that emanates out in a 10-foot radius, giving it concealment against ranged attacks. Every living creature caught within the aura must make a DC 15 Fortitude save or be afflicted with the curse of the living dead. Sufficiently intact Dead bodies caught within the aura are immediately raised as Dead. While a creature afflicted with the curse remains within the aura, they must save against Constitution drain every round instead of the usual interval.
Fear (Su): At the mere sight of a major greater Dead, the viewer must succeed on a DC 17 Will save or be frightened for 2d6 rounds. A creature of 4 HD or less is panicked instead. Whether or not the save is successful, a creature cannot be affected again by the same reaving dead’s fear ability for 24 hours. The save DC is Charisma-based.
Known major greater Dead
Ascended Dead (Tier 5)
The final tier of Dead are the Ascended Dead. Often simply called the Ascended, they are called such because they managed to endure the transformative process induced by the curse of the living Dead without losing any of their their mental prowess. In fact, many of them became even more intelligent and cunning, and gain a large amount of power upon completing their painful metamorphosis. An Ascended Dead's mind and thoughts are so interwoven with the curse that they can bend its properties to its will in many miraculous ways. The Ascended often boast control of their own unliving flesh, and are so powerful that very few parties of mortal adventurers can hope to match their prowess. While lower tiers of Dead develop along particular default forms, Ascended Dead are unique creatures. They can take the from of terrible beasts, amorphous entities, or near-humanoids. Ascended can induce Malformations into other Dead or themselves, and some have abilities that allow them to impair or impede the motions of cursed mortals. Only the strongest willed, most powerful and resolute of mortals become ascended Dead. Ascended Dead come in two types; Living Dead and the Supreme Dead, as detailed below.
Ascended Dead have access to all the default powers and abilities of greater Dead, and also gain the following.
Curse Detection (Su): An ascended Dead can sense the proximity and direction of ambient carriers of the curse, up to a distance of 100 feet per Hit Die. This ability functions as blindsense, but it only lets them detect other Dead and living creatures afflicted by the curse. Within 60 feet of the ascended Dead, this ability instead functions as blindsight related to these types of creatures.
Malform (Su): An Ascended's control over the curse allows them to mutate their own flesh or that of other Dead. As a standard action, an Ascended may bestow a single malformation of their choosing upon the target Dead. This malformation is in addition to any of the malformations the target may have naturally and is permanent until dismissed. A Dead may only be granted one aqditional malformation as a result of this ability at any given time. Bestowing another malformation to the target overwrites the first granted by this ability, even if it is applied by another Ascended.
To be done.
To be done.
The Curse of the Living Dead
The curse itself is, ironically, almost a living thing. At time it seems capable of feeling what is in a specific creature's heart and physically manifesting such traits through the baleful transformation into one of the Dead. Even if in most recorded cases the transition to a Dead strips a creature of its intelligence, leaving only an instinct-driven shell behind, the resulting creature wears its past sins like armour, and its long-forgotten emotions become lethal weapons. A Dead that was an avid hunter in life may stop at nothing to stalk its pray in a sadistic simulacrum of its forgotten craft, and a vicious killer risen as Dead may find his facility of murder more than intact. In fact, there have been recorded cases of serial killers rising from the dead and continuing their ritual killings as if they were still alive; like the grim knowledge has been ingrained within their dead flesh itself. And, in some rare cases, a particularly strong consciousness may preserve itself even against the eroding dark abyss of death itself.
The Curse of the Living Dead causes the transition of a living creature into one of the Dead. The curse is contained within the viscera of most Dead, and is usually transmitted by means of physical injury. By far the most common method of infection is through exposure of a living creature's bloodstream to the blood or the saliva of a Dead; an occurrence most often facilitated by a Dead's bite attack. Some powerful Dead however are capable of infecting creatures through supernatural means, and the worst of them erode a living creature's physical health with their presence alone. After a creature has been exposed to the curse it becomes infected, and must make Fortitude saves at a regular interval that is usually preceded by an incubation time.
More powerful Dead have a higher concentration of the Curse within them, lowering incubation time and requiring a creature to save far more often (see below table).
|Curse Details||Lesser Dead||Greater Dead||Ascended Dead1|
|Incubation2||48 hrs||12 hrs||4 hrs||2 hrs||Immediate|
|Save Interval||8 hrs||4 hrs||2 hrs||1 hr||1 minute|
|HD||Type of Dead a creature becomes (d%)|
The curse of the living Dead is a special form of blight that grips the body and mind. When exposed to the curse, due to being bitten or exposed to sufficiently dense miasma, the curse lays dormant within a creature's body for a given incubation time (see above table). During this time, the character suffers no ill effects, and might not even be aware he has been infected depending on the mode of transmission.
A character is not allowed a save to prevent this exposure or the start of the incubation time, and at the end of the incubation time the curse becomes 'active' and the creature must make its initial saving throw against the curse. See the blight article for more information about how the curse worsens over time and can be treated.
Once the curse becomes active, the afflicted creature must make regular Fortitude saves as per the save interval on the above table, to prevent the curse from worsening.
The curse of the living Dead has no specific primary or secondary blight effects, except for the basic penalties associated with each stage of blight. A cursed character can still move and act with relative clarity, up to stage 2.
Only a select few types of living creatures resist the Curse fully. Because the curse does not affect a creature's immortal soul, single-constituent creatures like elementals and non-native outsiders, whose physical and spiritual bodies are one and the same, are immune to the curse. Likewise, creatures that are not flesh and blood (plants and most oozes), as well as creatures without a physical body (incorporeals) cannot be infected. Even a native outsider resists the curse partially, having a +4 racial bonus to saves against it.
Malformations are the basest violations of nature that a Dead can bring upon itself. The evil that animates them becomes so powerful that it distorts and alters their body, granting them special abilities, powers, and making them stronger. To determine how many malformations a random greater Dead has, roll a d% and use the below table.
|Minor Greater Dead||1-80||81-100||—||—|
|Major Greater Dead||1-50||51-80||81-95||96-100|
Malformations come in three types; Special Attack, Mutation, and Ability. Special Attack-type malformations grant the greater Dead additional attack options in combat. Ability-type malformations grant spell-like abilities and certain passive benefits, and Mutation-type malformations alter the greater Dead’s physiology in some beneficial way.
If a greater Dead has malformations, roll a d% for each as per the table below. They cannot have the same malformation twice however, unless otherwise noted in the table. Reroll any doubles you might encounter.
|1-4||Anathematic Touch||Ability||Spell resistance 8 + HD vs divine spells. Natural attacks deal 1d6 additional damage to divine spellcasters.|
|5-8||Arachnid Eyes||Mutation||Omnidirectional vision. Never flat-footed, cannot be flanked, and gains +10 to Spot checks.|
|9-12||Baleful Scream (Su)||Special Attack||Gain a special attack; 15-ft. cone, 1d6/2HD sonic damage (Reflex half); if target takes damage, stunned for 1d4 rounds (Fortitude half).|
|13-16||Cancerous Growth||Mutation||+2 Strength, fast healing 5.|
|17-20||Ceramic Skin||Ability||Gain resistance 10 to acid and fire.|
|21-24||Double-Jointed Legs||Mutation||+2 Dexterity, +10 land speed.|
|25-28||Enervation Ray (Sp)||Special Attack||Ray attack deals 4d6 negative energy damage (Will half) and bestows 1 negative level (Fortitude negates). Equivalent to a 4th-level spell.|
|33-36||Extra Arm1||Mutation||Gain one extra arm/claw attack. +2 to grapple checks.|
|37-40||Flatulence (Ex)||Special Attack||10-ft.-radius emanation, 1-round stinking cloud effect (Fortitude negates). Nausea effect goes away 1 round after afflicted creature leaves the cloud.|
|41-44||Gelid Breath (Su)||Special Attack||15-ft. cone, 1d8/2HD cold damage (Reflex half) and 1d4 Dexterity (Fortitude half).|
|45-48||Hasted||Ability||+2 Dexterity. May act as hasted for 1d4+1 rounds once per day.|
|49-52||Lifebane||Ability||+1 to attack rolls and +1d6 to damage to all attacks against living creatures. +1 to Curse save DC.|
|53-56||Lightning Bolt (Su)||Special Attack||30-ft. line, 1d6/HD electricity damage (Reflex half).|
|57-60||Muscle Density||Mutation||+2 Strength, powerful build.|
|61-64||Needle Spray (Ex)||Special Attack||15-ft. cone of needles; 2d8 piercing damage (Reflex half) plus poison (1d6 Str/1d6 Str; Fortitude negates).|
|65-68||Prehensile Tongue||Mutation||bite becomes a tongue attack that can strike with reach (includes curse); +2 to grapple checks.|
|69-72||Razor tail||Mutation||Gain a tail, and a tail slap natural weapon. Base damage as claw. Deals slashing damage. +2 to grapple checks.|
|73-76||Shadow Leap (Sp)||Ability||dimension door (range 60 ft.) 3/day.|
|77-80||Spiked Carapace||Mutation||+2 enhancement bonus to natural armor, and spikes are a natural weapon that functions as armor spikes.|
|81-84||Thrallherd||Ability||+2 Charisma. Command up to twice as many lesser Dead.|
|85-88||Two-Headed||Mutation||Gain an additional head, along with a second bite.|
|89-92||Unholy Surge||Ability||inflict serious wounds 1/day (CL equal to HD), natural weapons treated as lesser unholy.|
|93-96||Vomit Spray (Ex)||Special Attack||30-ft. line that blinds for 2d6 rounds and deals 1d8/2 HD acid damage, Reflex negates and halves.|
|97-100||Wings||Mutation||The greater Dead gains two wings, with a fly speed equal to its land speed, good maneuverability.|
Special Attack-type malformations that affect an area have a 1d4-round cooldown time. If a greater Dead has multiple area effect Special Attack-type malformations, they all share the same cooldown. All Special Attack save DCs are Constitution-based, with a +2 racial bonus.
Bonuses to ability scores given by Mutation-type malformations are racial, and stack with each other. Bonuses to ability scores given by Ability-type malformations are enhancement bonuses, and do not stack with each other.
All Ability save DCs are Charisma-based.
Other malformations may be invented for particular greater Dead on DM fiat, as long as they are roughly equal to those listed above in power.